Baltimore’s police union is under fire for tweeting out what many perceived to be an attack on the city’s youth by inferring that some are “criminals” without much context and urging cops to “protect each other” as they descended on Inner Harbor where a large crowd had gathered.
On Saturday, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 ignited controversy when they urged officers to take caution as they answered reports of rowdy youths saying:
“Protect each other and don’t fall into the trap they are only kids,” wrote union president, Sgt. Mike Mancuso, the Baltimore Sun reports.
To our officers at the Harbor tonight:
Protect each other and don't fall into the trap that they are only kids. Some are criminals! Keep the current policies and Consent Decree in mind. If ordered to arrest put the name of the on-scene Commander in all reporting.
— Baltimore City FOP (@FOP3) May 26, 2019
Mancuso’s tweet angered city leaders especially for a city that has faced harsh criticism for its handling of Freddie Gray who died while in police custody.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland tore into Mancuso for his insensitive, blasting him in a Facebook post and calling his response “UNACCEPTABLE!”
“We know that trust between community members and the police has been broken for a long time,” the organization wrote.
“Comments like this do nothing to repair that trust. Instead it encourages racial profiling tactics, excessive force, and excuses officers in advance for disregarding the rights of Black children.”
Detective Jeremy Silbert wrote in an email Sunday that there were “several hundred juveniles at the Harbor” Saturday which prompted the call for additional foot patrols in the area.
The Memorial Day weekend drew hundreds to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which required an increased police presence.
According to reports, police started receiving calls that youths were engaged in fights at the crowded Harbor from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. While there were no reports of serious injuries, at least six people were arrested for destruction of property and disorderly conduct, police said.
However, Mancuso’s comment further perpetuated a stereotype that disappointed political figures like Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young who said he was “disappointed” in Mancuso’s comment.
“Obviously, the mayor has worked hard to restore relations between the community and police,” said his spokesman Lester Davis. “We just have to be mindful of the type of language we use,” which includes not defining youths “with a broad brush,” Davis said.
Democratic City Councilman Eric Costello, who represents the 11th District, confirmed that there was “video footage of kids running across E. Pratt St on top of the hoods of cars.” But the video has not surfaced yet.
State Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, was outraged calling Mancuso’s comment “contemptible and utterly unacceptable”.
Carter also noted that given that the U.S. Department of Justice found that officers in the city practiced unconstitutional and discriminatory procedures towards Blacks in low-income neighborhoods, the police department needs to stay true to making the sweeping changes they promised would take place in a 2017 consent decree.
Under then-President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department issued a scathing report on racial bias by the Baltimore police and reached a consent decree with the city only days before President Trump entered the White House. The agreements were meant to provide federal oversight to local law enforcement agencies with a history of racist and abusive practices against communities of color.